Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Religion and sacrifice in a diverse society

Total Drek's thoughts go out to the victims of yesterday's tragedy at Virginia Tech. Like the rest of the nation, I am shocked and upset by what I hear reported. There is a lot that I could say about it as a blogger, but it would be better to wait until more clear, reliable news has been released, and until some more time has passed in general. So I will blog about something different today.

Religious people in Minneapolis have asked the city government to respect their right to make decisions about their workplace environment based on their religious beliefs. Sounds like something that conservatives would support, right? They have supported this "right" in the past.

Of course not. Because, as it turns out, these people are cab drivers and Muslims, and they right they are supporting is the right to refuse service to people carrying alcohol. You can read about it from the AP story. Islam forbids alcohol and other drugs*, and the Muslim cab drivers see it as an infringement of their "right of conscience," - if their religious forbids carrying alcohol, it is their religious right and duty to refuse to do so. This is exactly the same "right" that fundamentalist pharmacists ask to be preserved when they don't want to dispense birth control.

What is the reaction of the extreme right to the drivers' argument? Heartbreakingly predictable. Freedom of religion to them means nothing more than freedom of religion for them, and only them.

For the record, I think the arguments that both the Muslim cab drivers and the fundamentalist Christian pharmacists make are ridiculous, from personal, political, and religious perspectives. Personally, if you don't want to follow the instructions of your job, you have the right and the freedom to quit your job and find another one.

Politically, the First Amendment expressly forbids the establishment of a national religion - the most sacred text of our government says that government can't force the nation to respect one religion over another.

Religiously - and I think this is the most important argument I can make - the cab drivers and pharmacists want to have and eat cake. They want to be devout, but they want their devotion to be easy, government-protected, and consequence-free. They want to be free to practice their religion under a guarantee that they will not have to make any sacrifices. And religion takes sacrifice.

What's the point of writing about this? Sure, it's always fun to point out the hypocrisies of the far right, which are numerous and varied. But what will that accomplish, other than making us feel better? The important point I want to make here is that separation of church and state is not just a political issue, not just a moral issue, it's a religious issue. Living in a diverse society makes individual religious practice more important, not less. Separation of church and state benefits both church and state.

*As, of course, do many denominations of Christianity, including the Southern Baptists, but you don't hear them talking about refusing transport to alcohol.

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Blogger Drek said...

I want to, first and foremost, echo Slag's comments about Virginia Tech. I have only the deepest sympathy for the Virginia Tech population, the parents and family of the victims, and the parents and family of the shooter. Though we often overlook it, the parents of the perpetrator are likely feeling more isolated and heartbroken than any of us can imagine right now. Until and unless something emerges to convince me otherwise, I regard them as victims of their son's violence.

I would also like to agree with Slag's view on the current religious shennanigans. I discussed the pharmacy issue a while back and I think he and I are in substantial agreement.

As a side note: I do so love how everyone thinks that "freedom of religion" simply means "I can pick on anyone I want and nobody can pick on me."

Then again, it does give rise to some pretty funny jokes. Take a look and give it a chance- it gets pretty good.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007 9:29:00 AM  
Blogger The Dainty Deb said...

Here at Wake Forest, we've been particularly saddened by the VA Tech tragedy, as we lost one of our own professors, Dr. Kevin Granata, a wonderful teacher and father (he was part of the inter-school Engineering program, SBES, which allowed students to study Engineering at both WFU and VA Tech).

As to the never-ending load of whack-jobs, I placed my head in my hands yesterday after tutoring a girl (all of 18 years old, and earnest as balls) who tried her best to convince me that the dinosaurs were a hoax.
St. Peter: Flying Lizards?! No, no. That was a joke, son.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007 5:33:00 AM  

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